Overcoming cultural differences

You would not have wasted your money if you had paid admission to see the looks on the faces of the Bolivian construction workers when our Canadian Habitat for Humanity team of 8 women and 2 men arrived at the building site on our first day.

Apprehension. Hesitation. Discomfort. A little fear, maybe.

But staff and volunteers from Hábitat para la Humanidad Bolivia were there to translate, smooth things over and assign tasks. Within half an hour, we were mixing mortar, moving rocks and shovelling dirt. By the end of the day,  hesitation was gone and Felix, our maestro (the head mason) told us he would cry when we left.

Now, four days later, Felix walks into the site in the morning with a big smile and a cheery, “¡Buenos días, mis maestros!” We laugh together. We even do yoga in the park together. Many cultural differences still exist, but we found our common humanity.

When people from two different cultures come together they instinctively seek the common ground.

This week we went to visit two homes affiliated with Niños con Valor (Valuable Children), an organization that provides loving homes for abandoned children in Cochabamba. Most of the people on our Habitat team speak little or no Spanish (mine is very rusty), and none of the children speak English, but with gestures and guessing games we communicated.

I noticed a list of all the children’s birthdays on the wall, so I walked over to have a look. A little girl stood beside me and pointed to her birthday on the schedule. It was the same day as mine. “¡Este es mi cumpleaños tambien!” I said. Her eyes lit up and we looked into each other’s eyes with joy over our common connection. She gave me a big hug. Another woman on our team sat and spoke with a girl over dinner. Their connection? They had the same first name.

I noticed as we talked and played with the children that our conversations led us to seek the common ground. Did we like the same sports? Play the same musical instruments? Like the same kind of books? We already knew that there are many differences. We wanted to find out in what ways we are the same.

We can expect apprehension, hesitation, discomfort and a little fear, maybe, when confronted with cultural differences.

But it’s good to know that when we find our common ground we can move on from there, and it sure doesn’t take long.

Advertisements

About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on February 3, 2012, in Inspiration, outreach and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. That’s a wonderful view of the world, Arlene. I think I’d be suffering from Tim’s withdrawal if I were in your shoes, and unable to notice the common ground.

    • Thanks, Chris. You are right about Tim’s withdrawal. Believe it or not, in a country that grows some of the best coffee in the world, they really don’t drink a lot of it here. But knowing you, I know you’d be the first to strike up a meaningful relationship with the people here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Zinormous Canvas

Make a Choice Adventourous Stranger

We Chase Success

*Let's Not Just Chase It, Let's Capture It Forever*

Water for Camels

Encouragement and Development for Social Workers and Those with a Mission of Helping Others

Awesomengers

Think हटK , Be AWESOME !!!

sandsoftime10

A peek into Megha's mind

Life via Window

Canvas of stories, fiction and feelings.

Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Author Adrienne Morris

Books, Art and the Writing Life at Middlemay Farm

spirit sage

through the eyes of a profound beholder

The Millennial Pastor

An iPhone Pastor for a Typewriter Church

InvestInYourselfFirst!!

Be A Warrior 🎯 And Get Out From The Misconceptions Of Your Life!!

sophiawakens

awakening to the sacred feminine presence in our lives

Dr. Jen Gunter

Wielding the lasso of truth

and the words that echo..

a lot of words...

Hurry Up & Wait

Random thoughts and a collection of ideas, stories and photos

Alex on Faith

Growing in faith together!

Be Inspired

Journey from severe depression - Self healing - Acceptance - Learning - Growth - Connecting - Understanding - Being Unique

byluis7

« me arrodillo por las noches ante tigres que no me dejarán ser - lo que fuiste no será otra vez - los tigres me han encontrado pero no me importa. »

%d bloggers like this: